Ford researchers will study the gecko’s sticky toe pads for clues to improve adhesives and increase the recyclability of auto parts Biomimicry is an innovative approach that looks to nature for sustainable solutions to modern-day challenges; biomimetic innovations could transform the interior design of  Ford vehicles Ford Motor Company recently hosted a biomimicry workshop at its Dearborn campus   with participation from Procter & Gamble and The Biomimicry Institute

DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 20, 2015 – Ford Motor Company will chart new territory as it seeks to create adhesive innovations inspired by the gecko. Ford will also work with Procter & Gamble, sharing research findings   as   both   companies   look   to biomimicry   for   a   host   of   business
solutions. For   years,   Ford   researchers   have considered   ways   to   make   auto manufacturing more sustainable. A key challenge is glue used to adhere foams to plastics      and   metals   can   make
disassembling parts for recycling nearly impossible. Enter the gecko. The   lizard’s   toe pads   allow   it   to stick  to  most surfaces without liquids   or   surface tension. The reptile can  then easily release   itself, leaving no residue. Consider, too, that a   typical   mature gecko weighing 2.5 ounces is capable supporting 293 pounds. The   gecko   could   inspire   a   host   of  adhesive  innovations for      global applications   at   Ford,   said   Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader for plastics and sustainability research.

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“Solving this problem could provide cost savings and certainly an environmental savings,” said Mielewski. “It means we could increase the recycling of more foam and   plastics,   and   further   reduce   our environmental footprint.” Buoyed by the biomimetic method, Ford recently hosted a forum at its Dearborn campus with participation from Procter & Gamble and The Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit   committed   to   promoting   the innovative   approach   of  looking   to   nature   for sustainable   solutions   to modern-day   challenges. Nearly 200   researchers and designers took part in the day-long session to learn   about   biomimicry and how to apply it to
their work. “We are excited for the opportunity to participate, together with Ford – with whom we have a history of collaboration – in The Biomimicry Institute workshop,”   said   Lee   Ellen   Drechsler, director   for   corporate   connect   and development, The Procter and Gamble Company. “We have an interest within Procter & Gamble for using biomimicry as a way to broaden our approach to solving tough research challenges.”

The biomimetic approach is not new. The Bullet Train in Shinkansen, Japan was inspired by the kingfisher. Velcro took its cues from a burr. And improved medical needles were developed based on the mosquito. Interest in the approach has increased in the last decade as awareness of   climate  change   and   environmental challenges is heightened, said Gretchen Hooker,   project   manager   for   design challenges at The Biomimicry Institute. Founded in 2006, the group works to empower people to create sustainable products and services using biomimicry. In addition   to   mobilizing   educators   and regional  practitioners through  the Biomimicry       Global       Network,       the
organization provides a platform to learn and practice biomimicry through multiple design challenges. These include open innovation, academic-corporate partnerships   and   corporate-employee challenges where employees get hands-on training while developing new solutions to         issues  corporations face. AskNature.org, the organization’s online database of biological solutions, offers inspiration to those looking to find answers in biomimicry.

“Ford and P&G are the first companies to take   part   in   these   new   corporate-employee challenges,” said Hooker.Beyond recycling, the Ford design teams have worked for nearly a decade to find nature-inspired technologies, with recent successes in yarn production for seating materials and headliners.

Ford is the only automaker to use Unifi’s high-performance REPREVE fiber, made from    100   percent   recycled   materials including plastic bottles, in its vehicles. Ford employs REPREVE in five of its vehicles – the new F-150, Explorer, Edge, Focus Electric and Fusion – making it a globally used   material.   The use of REPREVE represents Ford’s commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle, part of the automaker’s global sustainability strategy to lessen its environmental footprint.

Ford designers are now looking to expand upon that commitment, turning to nature to further improve the sustainable materials in vehicle fabrics. The gecko may also inspire fabric technologies   that could transform the cabin of Ford vehicles, researchers said. “As we look to further our commitment to reducing   our   environmental   footprint, taking   a   holistic,  biomimetic   approach
makes sense   because   nature   has efficiencies in design and uses minimal resources,” said Carol Kordich, global sustainable fabric strategies and development, Ford. “Nature is the ultimate guide.”